GUYANESE WORKERS NEED IMMEDIATE INCREASE IN WAGES AND SALARIES--PRESS STATEMENT Friday 10 July 2009




SUMMARY:
• The PNCR believes that the Caribbean Community would have to urgently tackle the challenges of climate change and the free movement of its citizens and measures to overcome the current economic crisis;
• The Party hopes that, with the publication of this ITUC report, the Jagdeo Administration would reform its attitude towards the labour situation in Guyana and adopt the required remedial action;
• If workers existences are to be sustainable, the average public servant needs to earn a minimum salary of GY$70,000 per month;
• ITUC Report: “child prostitution as one of the worst forms of child labour in Guyana”;
• The PNCR believes that, if it is at all necessary to sell Government shares in GT&T, the workers of the company should be afforded the first option;
• The Jagdeo Administration has not to this day informed the Guyanese nation how much of the savings from the debt write-offs have been invested in these sectors;
• PPP Administrations were prone to give concessions to its friends and supporters and to be lenient with them in terms of the money owed to the Government of Guyana.

THE 30TH MEETING OF THE HEADS OF GOVERNMENT OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY:

The 30th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community concluded in Guyana on 5 July 2009. The People’s National Congress Reform took careful note of the critical issues which were on the agenda of the Conference, such as climate change, the impact of the global financial and economic crisis, freedom of movement, and the need for the Community to put governance structures in place to facilitate the prompt implementations of decisions.

The PNCR noted that the Conference benefited from the intervention of such committed integrationists as Sir Shridath Ramphal, Mr. P.J. Patterson and Mr. Patrick Manning, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. It was clear from the various debates and statements that, even though it was recognised that the community is challenged in some critical areas, its demise was not contemplated. Indeed, the former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Mr. P.J. Patterson, put it very well, during his mature presentation to the Conference, when he stated that the collapse or the disintegration of CARICOM was not an option. The consensus was that CARICOM must endure.

The PNCR, in a statement on the occasion of CARICOM Day 2009, had expressed faith in the Community to survive and overcome difficulties. The Party recalled that, as a result of the grave economic crisis of the late 70’s and early 80’s, the Community was challenged and tested. It emerged as a more matured and cohesive organisation which continues to seek the fulfilment and dreams of its founding fathers.

The Party believes that the Community would have to urgently tackle the challenges of climate change and the free movement of its citizens and measures to overcome the current economic crisis. In this connection, the PNCR takes note of the fact that President Jagdeo has been appointed the Head of the Task Force to study and report on the economic crisis. This is a commendable achievement and the PNCR hopes that President Jagdeo would take the opportunity to consult the finest economic minds of the Region and come up with a plan which would help the individual states of the Community to navigate these difficult economic times.

The Party wishes to remind that, some time ago, it recommended the setting up of a Commission which would consist of the relevant stakeholders and regional and national economists who could study and make recommendations for measures and programmes to successfully survive the current economic crisis.

More than 36 years ago, Mr. L.F.S. Burnham, the founder Leader of the PNC, who played such a stellar role in the establishment of the Caribbean Community, warned that the Caribbean States must integrate or perish. The Community chose that path at that moment in its history. The Party is convinced that CARICOM would continue to travel the road of integration.

JAGDEO ADMINISTRATION VIOLATES TRADE UNION RIGHTS:

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has produced a report, this month, in which it castigates the Jagdeo Administration for the violation of trade union rights. Among the criticisms leveled at the Administration is its refusal to recognise collective agreements. Laws to put an end to anti-union discrimination are not applied and private companies can dismiss workers without any consequences.

The report recognised that many services, labeled as “essential”, are not really “essential” and have only been so defined, by the Jagdeo Administration, to enable the Minister of Labour to have the power to order compulsory arbitration and impose heavy fines on workers for going on strike. The Jagdeo Administration is particularly taken to task over the question of child labour, which, according to the report, affects one fifth of the child population. This is a chilling statistic. Many children are engaged in hazardous work and child prostitution is one of Guyana’s worst forms of child labour.

Most Guyanese would recognise the truth contained in this report. The PNCR has, over the years, been very critical of the Jagdeo Administration for dividing the labour movement, arbitrarily imposing wage settlements, undermining the collective bargaining process and paying scant attention to the poverty of Guyanese workers.

The Party hopes that, with the publication of this report, the Jagdeo Administration would reform its attitude towards the labour situation in Guyana and adopt the required remedial action. A knee jerk reaction, in the form of a denial, would neither help the workers nor improve the labour situation.

GUYANESE WORKERS NEED IMMEDIATE INCREASE IN WAGES AND SALARIES:

Whenever the question of increased salaries and wages for Guyanese workers is raised, the reaction of the Jagdeo Administration is to the percentages of the increases it allegedly gave to them. Apart from the fact that these increases do not empower workers to cope with the cost of living, this approach also obscures the real misery of the condition of the workers. We only have to look beyond the misleading statistics, put out by the Government, to recognise that public servants cannot afford such basic things as transportation, electricity, and the purchase of adequate amounts of food for their families.

If their existences are to be sustainable, the average public servant needs to earn a minimum salary of GY$70,000 per month. The propaganda statistics also obscures and misleads the public about the dire conditions of the poor and the elderly.

In spite of the objective reality, the Jagdeo Administration clings to the fantasy that workers are adequately paid and remain deaf to the plight of the old and the young.

The young, in particular, are being battered, shorn of their idealism and hope, as they remain unemployed for very long periods. Which Guyanese does not know that many graduates, from the tertiary and secondary education institutions, are likely to be without employment for as long as a decade? In fact, unemployment among young people may be as high as 45%. It is past time that the Jagdeo Administration put in place special measures to ensure that unemployment among young people is substantially reduced. There is need for such a reduction not only for economic reasons but more importantly for social ones.

Unemployed youths are most likely to engage in anti-social behaviour, such as crime or the consumption and sale of drugs. If the President Youth Choice Initiative was intended to create employment for young people it has signally failed. A more carefully thought out approach, based on a realistic assessment of the condition of the young people of Guyana, would be the preferred and recommended approach.

The PNCR argues that the time has come to focus on what is being done for the young people of Guyana as their horizons become limited by the lack of employment opportunities and they are tempted to engage in so many of the anti-social activities manifested in so many parts of our society. A revert to the Guyana National Service is again recommended.

PROSTITUTION IN SECONDARY SCHOOL SYSTEM:

The ITUC report has identified the forced prostitution of women and children, especially in the mining areas, as one of the ugly features of the Guyana labour scene. Indeed, the report states, at Page 7, that a study, by the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR), identifies “child prostitution as one of the worst forms of child labour in Guyana.” The real bombshell has been the revelation, in the 1996 UNICEF survey, which concluded “that there is an alarming degree of prostitution within the Guyanese Secondary School system.”

The People’s National Congress Reform has put these facts, from the ITUC Report, into the public domain, in the expectation that it would debate and force the Jagdeo Administration to put an end to these rather ugly and nasty developments.

WORKERS OF GT&T SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO PURCHASE GOVERNMENT SHARES:

The Leader of the PNCR, Mr. Robert Corbin, has already warned that the Party would investigate the reasons why the Government wants to sell its 20% shares in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T). Mr. Corbin has expressed his suspicion that this course of action is intended to benefit the friends and supporters of the PPP.

The PNCR believes that, if it is at all necessary to sell these shares, the workers of the company should be afforded the first option. The Party would insist on this position and oppose any attempt to deny the workers of GT&T the right to own those shares. It is the workers of GT&T who have made that company into an effective and efficient organisation. They should be given some preference over the political hangers-on’s and favoured supporters of the PPP.

HAS THE JAGDEO ADMINISTRATION INVESTED DEBT WRITE-OFFS IN SOCIAL SECTOR?

A change in the policies of the multilateral financial institutions has enabled the Jagdeo Administration to obtain debt write-offs totaling some US$847M, the largest being that from the IDB of approximately US$347M. At the time that the PNC was in Government multilateral debt was neither rescheduled nor written off. This changed with the interventions of such non-governmental organisations such as OXFAM and Jubilee 2000. The tenure of James D. Wolfenson at the World Bank was also instrumental in bringing about this major policy change.

The officials of the Administration are given the warbling about how successful the Administration has been in obtaining these debt write-offs. What they do not say is that the savings made from these debt write-offs are expected to be invested in the social sectors, such as education and health. The Jagdeo Administration has not to this day informed the Guyanese nation how much of the savings from the debt write-offs have been invested in these sectors. It must do so because the monies belong to the people of Guyana and not President Jagdeo and his cronies.

And while the Jagdeo Administration pats itself on the back for securing debt write-offs, it is busy racking up new debt for this nation. The PNC built up some US$2.1Bn in debt, over a period of 28 years, mainly as a result of the accumulation of interest.

In 17 years the PPP Governments have accumulated some US$833.7M in debt. In fact, the external debt grew by 16% in 2008. If the Jagdeo Administration continues racking up debt at this rate it will surpass that contracted by the PNC in less than 28 years.

POOR GOVERNANCE – CRONYISM AND CORRUPTION:

The cronyism of the Jagdeo Administration defies belief. The Administration had to pass retroactive legislation to cover the “sweetheart” deals it gave to Queens Atlantic Investment Inc. (QAII). In the judgement of the PNCR no company has been awarded such substantial concessions ever since this nation became independent. To this day the Jagdeo Administration has not seen it fit to tell the Guyanese people what are the facts about the concessions given to this business entity.

But long before Queens Atlantic turned up on our shores, PPP Administrations were prone to give concessions to its friends and supporters and to be lenient with them in terms of the money owed to the Government of Guyana.

The Auditor General’s 2007 Report, at Page IX, has given two examples. Guyana Stores Ltd. was sold in October 2000 for US$6M. US$4M was deposited by the person purchasing the store. The remaining sum should have been paid by September 2002. This sum is still outstanding in 2009. A similar situation obtains in respect of the privatisation of the National Paint Company. US$900,000 remains outstanding on the purchase price.

The PNCR has not noted any effort or attempt by the Jagdeo Administration to recover these substantial sums of money. Maybe the persons who effected the purchases of these two entities are being repaid for favours done for the PPP and the Jagdeo Administration.

People’s National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia,
Georgetown, Guyana
Friday 10 July 2009